Cal Poly Pomona’s theatre club, Actors Collaborating with Technicians, laid to rest the winter quarter with a powerful, tear-jerking performance with their third-annual musical performance, Spring Awakening.
Kaitlyn Tice, a second-year transfer student and Co-President of A.C.T., who directed and choreographed the play, and musical director Scott Robinson, a 2013 music theatre performance alumnus and volunteer for the Cal Poly Music Alumni Board, had been working on the play a year before the club brought the Tony Award winning, rock-infused tragedy to fruition.
Spring Awakening grapples with some of life’s harshest realities including domestic abuse, abortion and suicide among sexually repressed youths attending a boarding school in late 19th Century Germany. The musical was composed by Duncan Sheik and written by Steven Sater in 2006 as an adaptation of the original German play by Frank Wedekind in 1891.
Despite the setting’s antiquity, many of the show’s themes remain relevant, remarked Jasmine Mosebar, a 2016 CPP theatre alumnus and the musical’s assistant director. The club thought that the story’s emotional weight and cultural significance increased their need to tell its story.
According to Mosebar, A.C.T. has increasingly focused on serious topics since its conception in 2014, starting with the parody musical, Spamalot.
Outside the Studio Theatre where the play was being performed, green felt leaves were stacked on a table dressed in a red tablecloth, with the encouragement of audience members to write down the names of loved ones who have struggled with or who have been victims of suicide.
Suggested by director Tice, those leaves would then be placed upon the single, large tree bedecked with reclaimed wooden planks towering from the corner of the otherwise minimalist set within the intimate studio theatre. A bridge reached across the adjacent corners to account for the various settings within the play, according Noah Lawrence, the show’s set designer.
Lawrence explained the nature of the tree is part of a trend of metaphorical meaning within the show’s artistic production.
“We wanted it because the show is so old, but it has the new music to it,” said Lawrence.
The production incorporated other unconventional elements within their presentation, as a result of the club’s collaborative nature. Tice, who had been working on the show’s choreography for the past year, came to Mosebar to help her integrate sign language into the movements.
“The play lends itself since the show is about sexual discovery. Spring Awakening has so much literal talk of touching each other for the first time and discovering each other’s bodies through that. It’s literally the act of talking by touching,” Mosebar said.
Homosexuality was another topic the directors expanded upon in the play, according to Tice. They added an additional female couple’s relationship into the choreography.
Combating the show’s heaviness in between the harsher scenes, Larry Mayorquin, President of A.C.T. and fourth-year theatre major, also delivered doses of sexually-charged humor as Hanschen while reading Shakespeare’s “Othello” aloud while looking at a small painting of Correggio’s Jupiter and Io.
“The common theme seemed to be forbidden love. They were both metaphors for mine and Ernst’s relationship,” Mayorquin said on his views of the passages he read.
Rebeca Ramirez, a 2016 theatre alumnus, along with Colin Guthrie, a third-year transfer theatre student, played all parental roles in the show.
“I think that the whole idea of having all of these parents being the same people is that the kids feel like they’re being controlled by one entity, which is just the adults,” Ramirez said.
A handful of the 37 members of the play’s cast and crew held dual roles as being performers and holding technical positions. Caleigh Zwahlen, a second-year theater student, performed as the female lead, Wendla, while she was also the production’s scheduler.
Many theatre students typically take on multiple jobs within the department, volunteering their theatre club activities on the side. Amber Acosta, a fourth-year theatre student, was the show’s costume designer, while juggling 20 units and a part-time job at Starbucks, simultaneously co-directing and choreographing her senior project.
Tice and A.C.T.’s club and crewmembers share pride and admiration for each other’s efforts.
”The show was successful because of the collaboration of everybody,” said Tice.
Mosebar shared her experience as a first-time assistant director underneath Tice’s leadership.
“Kaitlyn is a genius, that lady. Knocked out four songs in a night, it’s amazing. The kids are passionate and dedicated,” said Mosebar.
In addition to selling out all its showings on opening weekend, the production has been asked to perform at La Habra Depo Theatre this April.